How are you?
It’s been three months since my mother and I left our house in Menteng and totally cut off all communication with Dad and his entire family. You also haven’t heard from us for a while now. Mom and I have received numerous calls from Dad’s cell phone, your cell phone and the house’s landline number, but we consciously chose not to answer those calls. We have decided that we have nothing left to talk about with Dad or any of his family members.
Therefore I’m asking you not to tell Dad about what I write to you through this letter. Please keep the information about me and Mom to yourself. Aside from still hating Dad deeply, I also don’t want Dad to have the illusion that me or Mom is going to return to him. Let me stress here that such thing will never happen in my lifetime.
You might wonder what happened when Mom and I suddenly disappeared like evaporated cigarette smoke from our Menteng house. I’ll tell you what actually drove us to pack our belongings and left the house silently in the wee hours that Saturday.
We are sure, although not 100 percent sure, that Dad will be well taken care of even after the both of us have fled that scary house, especially because you are there. We know that you, who see a father figure within Dad’s diabolical physical appearance and behavior, love him more than I, his own biological son, do.
I have never loved Dad. More than anything, I’ve always wanted to kill him with my own hands. I would really love to throw him against the wall and rip his head off. Since I was a kid until I am 23 years old, Dad has always humiliated me. He always enjoys making me feel shamed.
“You dickless boy! Acting like a girl. Completely disgusting! Makes me want to vomit my intestines out!” he castigated me one day in front of his whole family. He has also called me names like airhead, ignoramus and nincompoop. In fact, he has never called me by my name, Sahat, referring to me as “the clumsy little fuck”.
One evening three years ago, when he discovered that I am gay, he erupted.
“Disgusting! You little fuckhead with torn anus, remember to keep this sordid secret away from the ears of everyone! You just put my respectable, aristocratic name to shame! Our family doesn’t carry that retarded gay gene, you torn anus!” he screamed on top of his lungs after he had beaten me to a pulp. Afterwards, I was hospitalized. He lied to everybody that I was mugged on my way home.
“That retarded gene must have been passed on from your whorish Mom! That sick little liberal poet whose so-called poems talk about sex and penises only... and she calls them poetry? (blows raspberries) You know, she is writing shit, she is writing poop. I wonder why her readers eat her poop! I wonder why the hell I married that slut!” Dad yelled at me on my hospital room a few days after he hammered me.
Speaking of the gay gene, it’s total bullshit that there are no homos in the Hutagalung family. I remember my aunt, Ruth, who has never married all her life, but who has a female partner called Naomi with whom she shared an apartment for decades. Although I have never had sex, I can tell from their face that they do enjoy really good sex; it simply radiates from their innocent faces.
Now, back to my starfucker Dad (pardon my bad language, it’s that I just can’t contain this rage any more...). He has never appreciated my achievements as a person. When I was awarded by my university as an outstanding, high achieving student, he said nothing. When I graduated ahead of my time with an above-average grade point average, he also said nothing. Instead, he looked down upon my achievements: “You know, stupid nerd fuckhead, there is no use being smart, memorizing the content of your college textbooks!”
I couldn’t cry when he insulted my achievements; the pain was so overwhelming that I chose to repress my feelings, instead of dealing with them. The result? Numbness. Depression.
Mom has always also been the target of Dad’s seemingly endless repertoire of demeaning insults.
Of course you know the story of their relationship. Dad is 25 years older than Mom. When they met each other for the first time 25 years ago, Mom was only 23. At such a young age, she was already known as a talented poet. She came from a humble background, and he is from a well-known wealthy aristocratic family from North Tapanuli.
Unfortunately, the recently divorced Dad then was impressed not by Mom’s intellect but her youth and beauty. She was infatuated with the older man, whom she saw as a father figure who was able to provide her love, wisdom and protection (which, as we now know, has never happened, ever, in their marriage).
You might guess that Mom and Dad’s age gap was the main culprit behind their constant frictions. The source of their abusive relationship, however, is the social class gap. My aristocratic dad sees Mom as a thorn in his flesh: a barking woman who screams taboo subjects like sex and female liberation through her poems. Actually, Dad’s family had always objected their union, but he didn’t care. He thinks that he can buy anything, including Mom and his family’s approval of their marriage, with his money. And he did.
Once she told Mom: “You ungrateful little slut! If 23 years ago I didn’t buy you for your sexiness and your beauty, you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a good life you’re having now! You wouldn’t have been able to take that fucking master’s degree program so you could be a lecturer at that shitty university to supplement your pathetic income as a fucking poet!” Dad screamed before he spat his yellow, thick mucus on Mom’s face.
Mom, however, chooses to stay with Dad. When I asked her if she was waiting for him to drop dead and inherit all of his fortunes (because, unfortunately, Dad was right, poets don’t make much money even if they supplement their incomes as lecturers), she surprised me with a sudden sexy, throaty laugh.
“Of course not, you innocent little kid! There are a lot of wealthy men out there. But there is something that your father has, which other wealthy men don’t. He’s such a good fucker, even at 80 years old. When he fucks me, he always gives me incomparable satisfaction, body and soul,” Mom said dreamily.
“Then you need to try other men. I am sure there are those who fuck women better than Dad...,” I said. But Mom evaded the subject and said she wanted to sleep.
I knew I stirred something within her, something that she had long refused to admit: the fact that she allowed herself to be abused by her husband, despite writing poems about “women’s liberation”. It’s an absurd contradiction that even I as her only son could not begin to fathom to this day.
One day, Dad could no longer be a good fucker.
Last year, Dad’s day of reckoning arrived. He suffered a massive stroke that rendered him not only physically paralyzed but also impotent. Sexually impotent. Actually, everybody could see this coming. With his habits of drinking ridiculous amount of alcohol, eating pork and dog meat, and being explosively angry all the time, the vein in his brain was going to rupture at any day.
After his stroke his behavior got worse. A few months ago, Mom told me that she had just been accepted as a lecturer in a state university in Bandung, West Java, and a curator at an art gallery located in the same city. Lucky me, I had also been accepted as a photographer in a Bali-based magazine. So that’s it. We knew it’s time for us to leave all this shit behind after suffering years of endless humiliation at the hands of Dad.
We arranged to get an early morning flight so we could escape quietly from that Menteng concentration camp while Dad and all his servants were fast asleep. We knew however hard we wanted to ditch Dad from our lives, we still had our conscience. We were afraid that we would actually change our minds if we saw Dad howling, weeping and begging us not to leave and to stay with him instead. We know Dad is a good actor. Everytime we threatened to leave him, he cried, apologized and even threatened to commit suicide. When he did that, our hearts automatically stopped and we would change our minds, under the illusion that he might change.
But by the time we had gathered our courage to walk out that door, we already knew that he would never change. Not in 10,000 years.
Ahmad, aside from the microscopic details of all the hatred I still harbor towards Dad, I also would like to discuss something else in this letter.
I want you to come and live with me in Bali. I couldn’t bear the thought of you being verbally attacked every day by that satanic old man. Most importantly, I still love you deeply and want to spend my life with you. Don’t be afraid that Dad will be neglected after you leave him; he still has an army of domestic helpers who will take care of him in the short time he has left on this earth.
And I will remind you again that I never thought less of a you being a driver. Your kindness, modesty and gentleness are the qualities that make me want to be with you for the rest of my life. You can stay in my rented room here and we can open a joint business, probably running a Padang restaurant together. Don’t worry, we won’t be attacked by religious extremists because we’re gay couple. Unlike in Jakarta, organizations like the Anti-Perversion Movement have no place here because intolerance is not tolerated here.
I hope you still love me just like you said before. Forgive me for quoting an Adele song lyric here (sorry, I’m desperately trying to be funny because truthfully I feel really vulnerable about revealing my true feelings for you – I don’t want my letter to be mushy).
Don’t worry about your flight ticket, I will pay for them with my savings, which were previously supplied by Dad. I will just wait for you to give me certainty on when you can leave Dad and come here, so that I can take care of your flight.
I can hardly wait for your reply and I hope you do so as soon as possible.
Sebastian Partogi is a feminist writer living in Jakarta. The infant version of this story is published in Indonesian language at suarakita.org.